Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/2/13
MADISON, Wis. Derek Watt gripped and sipped a plastic cup of sludge after practice on Monday. Or, more specifically, a brightly colored, thick protein shake blend that reeked of peanut butter. In the crucial months between football seasons, Watt is learning the importance of calories and weight gain from Wisconsin's trainers and nutritionists. Developing the right kind of bulk is especially vital now that he plays one of the most punishing positions in football. "We have bags of snacks throughout the day they give us for keeping calorie intake in," Watt said. "I've gained about eight pounds since last fall. I'm trying to gain five more pounds of good weight by summer." Wisconsin completed its seventh spring practice of the season Monday, and Watt continues to show himself as the team's top fullback. He also continues to demonstrate his willingness to change his body composition in an effort to be even better as his redshirt sophomore season approaches. Last year, Watt essentially was thrown into the position midway through fall practices with no room to come up for air. He had spent his redshirt season and the beginning of fall as a linebacker. Initially, Watt shared playing time at fullback with Sherard Cadogan but quickly earned the starting position full-time because of his ability to pick up coaching details and his natural instincts. Even as he turned heads on the field for being such a quick study, Watt noticed he simply wasn't big enough to be as effective as he wanted. The head placement on his blocks was there, but he couldn't generate the kind of movement coaches wanted to push back his defender. "That's why I put on a little weight and I've got to keep getting bigger," Watt said. "It's one of those things you've got to put weight on, drive your feet, get that movement and make holes for the running back." The 6-foot-2 Watt says he now weighs about 230 pounds. As a means of comparison, his predecessor at Wisconsin, 6-foot Bradie Ewing, weighed 245 pounds during his senior season and went on to be drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. "I think Derek has an excellent skillset, but he has to be a much more physical player now in his second year playing the position than he was in his first year," Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. "You can anticipate that happening as a player matures and grows. What we do offensively with the fullback, it's one of the most violent positions in football. That's what we're looking for from Derek, and he's responded well to those challenges in the spring and we're looking to continue to develop him." Although Watt has plenty he wants to learn as a fullback, his ability to adapt and excel at the highest levels of college football despite competing at a position he had never played should say something about his talent. In high school, Watt rarely had to worry about blocking because he was too busy playing so many other positions. He played running back, linebacker, kicker, punter and kick returner and was named the Associated Press state player of the year in Wisconsin. Watt's switch to the other side of the ball is reminiscent of the situation his older brother, J.J. Watt, endured in college. J.J. Watt began his career as a tight end at Central Michigan and developed into one of the most dominant defensive linemen in college football after transferring to Wisconsin. Derek Watt is hopeful his transition can result in a similar production increase. "Any time somebody changes positions, it's a new challenge," Watt said. "I took it as a new opportunity. Once I started in there, I kind of felt comfortable and was blessed to be able to pick it up so quickly and roll with it. It felt good." Generally speaking, the fullback ranks alongside an offensive lineman in the battle for which person plays the most thankless position on offense, never touching the ball and only being seen after making a mistake. But Watt could see a significantly bigger role within the offense under Ludwig and first-year head coach Gary Andersen's scheme. Last season, Watt caught 12 passes for 150 yards, and the Badgers are likely to pass more this season. During Monday's practice, Watt also could be seen taking handoffs in third-down scenarios. A year ago, he didn't carry the ball once all season. "It's good to show they're giving me a shot at least and giving me an opportunity to carry the ball and do what I can," Watt said. "It's just good to feel they can trust me like that." Added Ludwig: "He's responded to it very well. It's basically doubling his workload. We're in the evaluation process right now. We really like the way he's come along." On the field and in the meal room, Watt is headed in the right direction. Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Magic Johnson guarantees World Series title for Dodgers

Aaron Donald officially a holdout from Rams camp

Three-team trade could involve Irving, Wiggins, Love, Carmelo

Roethlisberger mentions CTE study, continues to talk retirement

LaVar Ball has ref removed from game after technical

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Which NFL futility droughts could be quenched in 2017?

Jones: 'No domestic violence involved' with Elliott's NFL case

Harden spent so much in strip club they retired his jersey?

Bob Bradley returning to roots, and Los Angeles FC fans should be excited

Reports: David Price heading back to DL with elbow injury

Padres reportedly latest team in on Sonny Gray sweepstakes

The 'Dash Cam won't be turned off anytime soon' quiz

The MLB managerial hot seat index: Who's next to go?

Box Score 7/28: Cooperstown here we come

The most memorable moments from the class of 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

Three Up, Three Down: Adrian Beltre is a national treasure

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

Box Score 7/27: USMNT brings home the Gold Cup

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

Every MLB team's best and worst deadline trade from the last 25 years

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The MLB managerial hot seat index: Who's next to go?

The 'Dash Cam won't be turned off anytime soon' quiz

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker